Boy Scouts' historic vote on gays: lobbying right up to the end (+video)
However the Boy Scouts of America members from around the country vote Thursday in Texas on allowing gay scouts, the iconic 103-year-old boys' organization is at a crossroads.
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In a 2012 USA Today/Gallup national poll, however, fewer than half the respondents said they supported openly gay scout leaders, a view reflected by a coalition of church leaders who filed a petition in anticipation of the May 23 vote. The appeal opposes the policy change. Those signing the petition include representatives of churches with more than 20 million members, including the Southern Baptist Convention, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and the Anglican Church in North America, as well as theologians such as Southern Baptist Albert Mohler, United Methodist Thomas Oden, and Presbyterian Luder Whitlock.Skip to next paragraph
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“We strongly support the Boy Scouts of America current prohibition on open homosexuality and retaining it without revision,” their appeal reads. The signers note that nearly 70 percent of BSA troops are hosted by churches and religious institutions.
“Upholding traditional morality is vital for sustaining this partnership, for protecting Scout members, and for ensuring BSA has a strong future,” the statement says.
However, simple arithmetic suggests the BSA needs to do something if it wishes to celebrate its bicentennial. A Boston Globe article in advance of the group’s 2010 centennial noted that between 1998 and 2009, membership slid from 3.3 million to 2.7 million.
Speaking by phone en route to Dallas to cast his vote, Alan Snyder, chairman of the board for the Western Los Angeles County Boy Scout Council, says the resolution is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough.
“The country has moved toward a more open stance in one of the most dramatic shifts of public opinion ever,” he says. His own organization, the 14th largest in the country representing some 5,000 volunteers, undertook an 18-month dialogue. The discussion culminated with a nearly unanimous vote of the 64 board members, says Mr. Snyder.
The key point, he says, “is that sexuality does not have a place in the Boy Scouts activity, whether it is homosexual or heterosexual.” The Boy Scouts, he adds, “is about teaching kids character, ethics, and leadership.”
Calling this issue one of the most complex in its history, the BSA noted in an e-mail to the Monitor that it does not foresee tackling the status of scout leaders.
“The executive committee unanimously believes this is the best resolution,” the e-mail says, continuing, “it is the option that did not, in some way, prevent kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting from experiencing this life-changing program, and to remain true to the long-standing virtues of Scouting.”